The U.S. current account deficit hit a record high for the fifth straight year in 2006 despite of the fact that the imbalance in the fourth quarter narrowed, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday. The current account deficit shot up by 8.2 percent last year to 856.7 billion dollars, or 6.5 percent of the total US economy. The previous record was a gap of 791.5 billion dollars was recorded in 2005. The quarterly deficit stands around $195.8 billion, underneath a midpoint estimate of $204 billion made by Wall Street analysts. The figure also presented the smallest since the third quarter of 2005, when it was hovering around $183.4 billion. Taken as a whole in 2006, the deficit came to 6.5 percent of US gross domestic product, up from 6.4 percent in 2005. The fourth-quarter current account deficit decreased from a revised $229.4 billion in the third quarter, the department said. The Commerce Department had raised its estimate of the third quarter gap to $229.4 billion from $225.6 billion earlier. According to the latest figures, U.S. goods imports in the final quarter decreased to $464.6 billion, from $480.2 billion in the third quarter. It was mainly guided by a large fall in the value of oil imports as prices plummeted worldwide. On the other hand, U.S. goods exports increased moderately to $266.6 billion, from $261.3 billion. Exports of capital goods, predominantly civilian aircraft, helped triggering the increase. In the meanwhile, reacting to the latest data Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who chairs the congressional Joint Economic Committee, has blamed Bush administration economic and trade policies for the record shortfall. He had said that the record shortfall has potentially threatened the U.S. standard of living. He further said, ‘our economic security should not be in the hands of China or Saudi Arabia or any other entity because this administration can’t control government spending and because they haven’t effectively negotiated trade deals’.
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